Middle East papers on the Lebanon conflict.

What the foreign papers are saying.
July 14 2006 5:39 PM

Hellbollah

What's in the Middle East's English-language papers.

After a six-year absence from Lebanese soil, Israeli forces returned Wednesday in retaliation for the kidnapping earlier this week of two IDF soldiers by the Lebanon-based, Iranian- and Syrian-financed terrorist organization Hezbollah. The English-language Middle Eastern press coverage ranges from credible and insightful to rants that would warm the cockles of David Duke's heart.

To get a feel for what's happening in Lebanon, visit the Daily Star. The paper's Web site offers solid and decidedly evenhanded coverage of the situation. The paper's editorial sees a silver lining in the Israeli incursion—the chance to forge national unity. "What has been missing is a consensus with sufficient strength and appeal to forge a genuinely Lebanese identity. Hizbullah has always been the missing catalyst in that consensus, and the current crisis provides an opportunity to fulfill the resistance movement's potential as cornerstone of a new stability."

An op-ed by DailyStar opinion editor (and Slate contributor) Michael Young warned that the Islamists Syrian President Bashar Assad is cozying up to could turn on him:

[C]an Assad long resist the Islamist genie he has called forth in recent years, and which his despotism only strengthens? There are those like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who believe that Assad is the last barrier holding back the Islamists. But Assad's fragility is also why Syria's Islamists have become stronger at home and are likely to again confront the Alawite-led leadership when the situation permits. Assad may need the Islamists now, but one day they won't need him.

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For an Israeli perspective, try the Jerusalem Post. The Post runs an interview with Maj. Gen. Doron Almog, who oversaw the Gaza region for the Israeli army from 2000 to 2003. Almog worries that the invasion may damage Israel's image in the international community: "The government in Beirut is weak. If we start hitting the generators in Beirut, we'll lose international support and the government there will just say it is helpless to act." The paper's editors are less concerned about foreigners' perceptions:

Israel should do what it can on its own to restore deterrence and maintain its security. But the international community must also choose whether it wants, by refusing to speak out forcefully and unequivocally against aggression, to lay the groundwork for endless and escalating rounds of attacks. An international community that has continually demanded that Israel take risks for peace must do its part to ensure that Israel's security is increased, not decreased, as a result.

Elsewhere in the Jerusalem Post, an op-ed by the father of an Israeli solider who died in battle four years ago questioned the wisdom of attacking Lebanon in the name of two missing soldiers: "We all have a role to play in this latest drama: Our soldiers must know that, while drastic measures must be taken to secure their safety, the good of the nation will also be part of the equation. Even parents of kidnapped soldiers must face this terrible truth, though we cannot expect their minds to overrule the emotions of their hearts."

Unfortunately, a survey of the region's other papers provides a potpourri of anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and a scoop of anti-Americanism.

In the Yemen Times, an op-ed declares:

[P]eople are not naïve and Israel cannot rely on the International Zionist Establishment offering it clear immunity from official condemnation from the governments of the world, while it does what ever it needs to do to achieve its dangerous Zionist ambitions that will in the long run threaten world peace and make a mockery of moral conduct and adherence to international law.

For more "Zionist" conspiracy paranoia, choke down this editorial in Qatar's Gulf Times. You'll learn that Israel really doesn't want peace: "Just when the Zionists' plan for speeding up grabbing the choicest morsels, leaving scraps for the Palestinians, on the pretext that they have no peace partners was all but collapsed as President Abbas and Hamas agreed on a reconciliation plan that implicitly recognised the Israeli right to exist as a state, the Zionists found the perfect excuse to make sure there never will be partners for peace."

An editorial in the Saudi Arab News criticizes "Israeli military aggression" and also takes the opportunity to lash out at President George W. Bush, concluding, "After all hasn't the war on terror been the defining issue of the two-term Bush presidency? A president as short-sighted and ill-informed as this one is not about to learn from his grievous errors, partly no doubt because the greatest human price is being paid in Arab blood and tears."

Zuzanna Kobrzynski is Slate's executive assistant.

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